Minority Voting Rights

“One Person, One Vote”?: Supreme Court Decides Evenwel v. Abbott - Podcast

Civil Rights Practice Group Podcast
Andrew Grossman April 04, 2016

In an 8-0 judgement announced on April 4, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is permissible, but not mandatory, to draw legislative districts based on total population rather than on voting population. Our expert discussed Justice Ginsburg’s opinion, as well as the concurrences of Justices Thomas and Alito.


  • Andrew Grossman, Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP, and Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute

Wittman v. Personhuballah - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 3-30-16 featuring Derek Muller
Derek Muller March 30, 2016

On March 21, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Wittman v. Personhuballah. In 2012, the Virginia State Legislature adopted a redistricting plan that altered the composition of the Third Congressional District by increasing the percentage of African-American voters in the district. In 2013, plaintiffs, who reside in the Third District, sued state election officials, arguing that the District was racially gerrymandered in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge district court agreed and held the districting plan to be unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that judgment and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of its intervening decision in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. On remand, the district court held that the redistricting plan failed strict scrutiny and ordered the Virginia General Assembly to devise a remedial plan. When the Assembly did not do so the court devised its own remedial plan and ordered election officials to implement it.

On further appeal, there are four questions now before the Supreme Court: (1) Whether the court below erred in failing to make the required finding that race rather than politics predominated in District 3, where there is no dispute that politics explains the Enacted Plan; (2) whether the court below erred in relieving plaintiffs of their burden to show an alternative plan that achieves the General Assembly's political goals, is comparably consistent with traditional districting principles, and brings about greater racial balance than the Enacted Plan; (3) whether, regardless of any other error, the finding of a Shaw violation by the court below was based on clearly erroneous fact-finding; (4) whether the majority erred in holding that the Enacted Plan fails strict scrutiny because it increased District 3's black voting-age population percentage above the benchmark percentage, when the undisputed evidence establishes that the increase better complies with neutral principles than would reducing the percentage and no racial bloc voting analysis would support a reduction capable of realistically securing Section 5 preclearance.

To discuss the case, we have Derek Muller, who is Associate Professor of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law.

“One Person, One Vote”: Evenwel v. Abbott Oral Argument Preview - Podcast

Civil Rights Practice Group Podcast
Bradley A. Benbrook, C. Dean McGrath December 18, 2015

Our Teleforum previewed the oral argument in the Supreme Court in Evenwel v. Abbott. What is meant, precisely, by the term “one person, one vote”? What are its implications for apportioning legislative districts? Does the Equal Protection Clause allow States to use total population, or does it require States to use voter population, when apportioning its legislative districts? What are the best arguments to be made by each side? These and other questions were addressed as we previewed one of the most talked-about cases of the Term.


  • Bradley A. Benbrook, Founding Partner, Benbrook Law Group
  • C. Dean McGrath Jr., Founder, McGrath & Associates

“One Person, One Vote”: Arguments Heard in Evenwel v. Abbott - Podcast

Civil Rights Practice Group Podcast
Andrew Grossman December 08, 2015

At issue in Evenwel v. Abbott, argued on December 8, is whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one person, one vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population, when apportioning state legislative districts. Must each voter’s vote count equally and, if so, how is that to be accomplished? Does the scheme under consideration dilute the votes of certain people and, if so, how are their interests to be balanced against the goal of attaining majority-minority districts? What level of judicial scrutiny will be applied in this case? How does this case differ from Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission? Andrew Grossman attended the oral arguments and offered his impressions and predictions on a Courthouse Steps Teleforum conference call. His piece "Evenwel v. Abbott: What Does One Person, One Vote Really Mean?" is valuable background reading on this critical case.


  • Andrew Grossman, Associate, Baker & Hostetler, and Adjunct Scholar, The Cato Institute

Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 5-28-15 featuring Stephen Davis
Stephen Davis May 28, 2015

On March 25, 2015 the Supreme Court decided Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, which was consolidated with Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama.

These cases ask whether Alabama's 2012 legislative redistricting plans classify black voters by race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge federal district court rejected plaintiffs’ challenge to the redistricting plan.  By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court vacated that decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court determined that the district court made four key errors: (1) treating the racial gerrymandering claim as referring to the State “as a whole,” rather than district-by-district; (2) finding that the Alabama Democratic Conference lacked standing.; (3) improperly calculating “predominance” in the alternative holding that “[r]ace was not the predominant motivating factor” in the creation of any of the challenged districts; and (4) concluding that “the [challenged] Districts would satisfy strict scrutiny.”

Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia filed a dissent, which was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito.  Justice Thomas also filed a separate dissent.

To discuss the case, we have Stephen Davis, who is an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Arent Fox.